Rouse, Obama and Daley in January (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Ahead of what is expected to be a bruising re-election fight, President Obama is shaking up his White House staff—again.
Bill Daley, who was hired as Obama's chief of staff less than a year ago, is ceding some of his management duties to Pete Rouse, a longtime Obama adviser who initially filled in as interim chief of staff when Rahm Emanuel exited the post in October 2010.
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the management shuffle, cast the move as something of a demotion for Daley, who has drawn ire from both Democrats and Republicans in recent months over the administration's handling of budget negotiations and other contentious legislative issues.
Sources tell the Journal that Rouse will serve as "the president's inside manager," while Daley will focus on "managing relations with influential outsiders."
White House officials are pushing back on the notion that this is a rebuke to Daley. One unnamed official told the Washington Post Daley initiated the shuffle himself in order to make the White House as "effective and efficient as possible" ahead of the 2012 campaign.
But it's hard to believe the spin. There have been signs Daley has been in trouble for months—many communicated by the embattled chief of staff himself. Last month, Daley gave an incredibly candid interview to Politico's Roger Simon, in which he railed against both parties in Washington for causing Obama's political troubles and referred to the president's first term as "ungodly" and "brutal."
"It's been a brutal three years," Daley told Politico. "It's been a very, very difficult three years, an incredible three years. And we are doing all this under the overhang of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. F—k! It wasn't like all this was happening in good times."
Daley's remarks trashing the president's party reportedly irked top Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and initiated a round of calls from liberal pundits and activists—who were never big fans of Daley to begin with—for the chief of staff to be fired.
Rouse, a longtime Democratic staffer in Washington who has worked for Obama since his early days in the Senate, has long been considered Obama's "fixer." He was Obama's first choice to replace Emanuel, but Rouse said at the time he didn't want to take on those additional duties.
At a January news conference held to announce Daley's appointment, the focus seemed to be more on Rouse, who received a long standing ovation led by Vice President Joe Biden and other administration officials for his work at the White House.
Now Rouse appears to be tasked again for getting Obama's agenda back on track.
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